Whenever I'm doing a cooking demo or a book signing, a number of people can be counted on to ask, "Are your recipes low-salt?"
But rarely do they ever ask if my recipes contain too much celery, paprika, or are written in such a way that might impinge upon the rights of an overly sensitive people group.
No. Salt is the issue of today. Though it's true that sometimes someone will ask if my recipes are low-fat - but that is rare since the low-fat craze has lost a lot of oomph.
So why is salt such a big issue? Because the use of salt has been linked to such maladies as high blood pressure, stomach cancer, asthma, Alzheimer's, kidney stones, osteoporosis and, according to one report I found in a recent edition of Cars and Chicks, eating too much salt may also be responsible for those morons in front of us who drive with their blinkers on even though they have no intention of turning.
Think about it. We've all seen articles and reports with alarming titles like: Salt, The Pillar of Death, or The Hidden Dangers of Salt, or Salt: The Silent Killer, or I Was a Salt-Licking Teenage Mutant.
Yes, salt is getting a bad rap these days. So let me help set the record straight*. Salt, like money, is not evil. (The love of money is the root of all evil). It is not even dangerous. (Too much or too little can be harmful, but that goes for just about anything). Our bodies need salt (sodium). We cannot function without it. I'm not going to expound on the biological reasons as to why this is the case. That's why God created science textbooks.
No. I'm not here to teach a science lesson. Nor am I here to say that the consumption of salt in today's world is not harmful. I believe, and the data shows, that American's do ingest too much. We should cut back. But not in our day-to-day cooking. Why? because salt does affect flavor. In a big way. The 1/2-teaspoon of salt that we stir into a sauce or sprinkle on a steak would be sorely missed if we were to ban it from our cupboards. No, this thoughtful and moderate use of salt is not the primary culprit in our society's struggle with hypertension or any or the other maladies listed above.
The real culprit? Processed food. Most are loaded with salt. Look at the label of any processed food to see what I mean. If you want to cut down on your sodium intake, cut down on your intake of processed food. I also steer clear of fast food and family-style restaurants as a matter of habit because they also load their dishes with salt.
So, unless you are strictly advised otherwise by your physician, feel free to sprinkle some Kosher salt on that roast, vegetable, or starch. Your body won't mind and your taste buds will love you for it.
I generally use all-purpose non-iodized table salt in most everyday applications, including baking, because the small grains dissolve readily, but I will reach for Kosher salt when I am seasoning meat, fish, poultry or vegetables because it's easier to control and the grains cling a bit better. Oh, and on a side note, have you ever wondered why a good number of chefs (including me) sprinkle Kosher salt on any given item from a height of 12 to 20 inches? It's not to present some type of grand flair. No. The food we prepare will hopefully showcase our talent. The reason we sprinkle salt from such a height is because it is more evenly distributed that way. Go ahead. Try it. And the fact that it looks cool certainly doesn't hurt.
So we've touched on some of the issues of salt. But there's more. Topics like how and when is it best to apply salt. Brining (effective and useful). Those nifty little salt grinders that are turning up in stores and restaurants (silly and useless). And what about the rage over sea salt?
These questions and more will be discussed in a future blog.
Until then, pass the salt, will ya?
*As a matter of record, I am a cook and not a nutritionist, dietitian or doctor (although I once played doctor with the other kids when I was a child). The recommendations made in this blog are the result of careful research, classroom instruction, and the occasional wild guess. Any lawsuits stemming from physical harm incurred from said recommendations should be addressed to the real author of this blog: Andrew Shmedley, 1203 Commorant Way, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and not to Warren Caterson.